Saturday, January 1, 2011

Good-bye to 2010

The truth is that 2010 was mostly a good year.  Really good.  In fact, if Eliza had lived, it would have been a perfect year.  However, I'm sure that most of my answers will be flavored by this moment instead of reflecting the year in general.
I hesitated to fill this out because it seemed sort of obvious.  "What one thing would you change about 2010?"  "Well, let me think...  would I go back in time and decide to not cut my hair?  Or would I make my baby not die?"  I mean, really.

And it was a slightly masochistic exercise because in order to write it, I had to go back and read what I'd written last year and my voice sounds so hopeful and happy that it made me feel even more heartbroken.

But I want to remember that there was a lot of joy this year before our great sadness.  So here goes.
1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?
Defended a dissertation.  Graduated from a PhD program.  Published an academic article on spontaneous combustion in Charles Dickens's Bleak House.  Visited Seoul, South Korea.  Celebrated six years of stayin' married.  Became a mom. 

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

So my resolutions for 2010:
• Defend dissertation.
• Be more optimistic, less of a worrier.
I thought I was doing pretty well with this one.  I am not sure I will be keeping on with it any further, although I am absolutely convinced that worrying does not help prepare one for anything and that there is little point in worrying when everything that truly matters in life is totally out of my control.
• Complete more sewing projects, possibly including something I will actually wear.
I did quite a bit of sewing, but no clothes for myself.
• Reread Middlemarch (no one said resolutions can't be fun)
Haven't done this yet (totally forgot about it, actually) but I'm on quite a reading binge these days so I will likely return to George Eliot before long.
• Write a novel (C'mon. Everybody's doing it.)
Started one.  We'll see if I can ever pick it up again.  David thinks I should.  I swore I was going to work on it during my maternity leave, so I'm just not sure I'll have the heart.
• Grow a vegetable garden.
We did this.  Although "we" is hardly accurate--it was all David.  He did all the work and deserves all the credit.
• Find a job!
I was offered one full time job.  I didn't think I would take it, but now I am not as sure.  I just feel so uncertain about everything.  Right now I've still got adjunct teaching and my cushy job at the learning center.  Or at least, I theoretically have these positions.  Assuming I can keep my shit together by mid-January.

I'm not quite up for making next year's resolutions.  Maybe in a few months...

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes.  Jamie had Owen, Stephanie had Evelyn and Elliott, Carol had Noah, I had Eliza.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes.  My baby girl.

5. What countries did you visit?


6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
This is hard to answer.  For so much of 2010, I had everything I wanted.  The kind of happiness that seemed too good to be true.  It would be nice to get a little bit of happiness back if I could do it without forgetting Eliza.  In 2011, I would just like to be able to breathe without it hurting so much.

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
February 2.  My dissertation defense.
May 9.  My first mother's day--a positive pregnancy test that morning.
December 6.  Eliza's birthday and the worst day of my life.  It would sound dramatic if it weren't so terribly true.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Another one I don't know how to answer.  Surviving the death of my daughter feels like an impossible thing, so maybe that is an achievement.  Except that it's really an ongoing process so I think it might be too soon to tell.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Losing Eliza, even if it wasn't my fault in any measurable or definable way.  Failure doesn't have to be deliberate or intentional or even the result of neglect.  Sometimes it just means a terrible, accidental, devastating heartbreak.  A failure for my life to be the way it was supposed to be.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I've read the grief is a disease with specific symptoms like shortness of breath and loss of appetite.  So yes, I am suffering. 

11. What was the best thing you bought?
This fabulous little "Madonna: Who's That Girl Tour" onesie for Eliza was seriously my favorite purchase of the year.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
The bereaved mothers who reached out to me over the internet or through the mail to tell me that they are so sorry and taht have been through this and to promise me that things will get easier and that Eliza will never be forgotten.  Our nurse, Stephanie H., who was so kind and compassionate and who shared with us the story of her own grief so we felt less alone.  My parents who dropped everything and came here to share our sadness.  Monica, who picked up where my mom left off when my parents went home and who made me drink my water.  David, who was an amazing father to Eliza and is the best husband I could imagine.  Everyone who sent us sympathy cards and e-mails.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Those people who protest gays in the military at military funerals.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage. Groceries. Taxes. Baby stuff. 

15. What did you get really excited about?
The baby.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Jeff Buckley's "Lilac Wine."  It was in a movie soundtrack we watched shortly after Eliza was born and it will always make me think of her.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder? Oh, God.  So much sadder.
– thinner or fatter? I think still fatter with baby weight, despite the appetite loss.

– richer or poorer? Financially richer, thanks to David's new job.  Poorer in spirit, of course.  I just feel so depleted.  

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Told my family and friends how much we love and appreciate them, even before we had our tragedy.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Sometimes I think I wish we'd done less planning and expecting--I wish that we hadn't been so certain of Eliza.  But honestly we were so happy, I wouldn't go back and spoil that.  So I wish I'd done less worrying about teaching.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

At our house, mostly trying to ignore the holiday.  Also we saw True Grit.   

21. Did you fall in love in 2010?
Yes.  With Baby Duck who became Eliza.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

The Good Wife and Arrested Development (thanks, Netflix instant queue).
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?


24. What was the best book you read?
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken.
25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I liked to sing Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" to David.  Anything to get something besides classic country on the radio with him in the car.

26. What did you want and get?

27. What did you want and not get?
A baby.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
The King's Speech, A Winter's Bone, Tell No One (dvd)

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I toured a Buddhist temple and attended a Nanta! music show in Seoul, where I got called up on stage to participate in a fake Korean wedding (I was the bride and I had to eat potato soup).  I was sixteen weeks pregnant and 30 years old and it was a very happy birthday.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Again with the obvious:  Eliza.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
Mostly Borrowed Maternity Clothes.

32. What kept you sane?

David. My family.  Sympathy cards.  The kindness of online strangers.  Sanity still potentially in flux, however.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Jon Stewart still makes my heart flutter.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

The midterm election was disappointing--the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell was a bright spot.

35. Who did you miss?

My brother. Monica and Johnny.  And, of course, my Eliza.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

The strangers who have read this blog and left kind and sympathetic comments.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.

I've learned that there are all kinds of tragedies in this world, and they take all kinds of shapes.  I've learned that no matter how carefully you plan, you can't count on life working out the way you think it will.  I've learned that the love of family and friends and the kindness of strangers can give me strength when I honestly just wanted to give up on everything.  And I've learned that there is no lesson valuable enough to be worth the price of losing our baby girl. 

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Again, this song speaks to the current moment rather than the whole year.  But I imagine this song speaks now to our past and our future.  
It's called "Those You've Known" and it's from the musical Spring Awakening.

Those you’ve known
And lost, still walk behind you
All alone
They linger till they find you

Without them

The world grows dark around you
And nothing is the same until you know that they have found you

Those you’ve pained
May carry that still with them
All the same
They whisper: “All forgiven.”

Still your heart says

The shadows bring the starlight
And everything you’ve ever been is still there in the dark night

When the northern wind blows

The sorrows your heart holds
There are those who still know –
They’re still home
We’re still home
Though you know
You’ve left them far behind
You walk on by yourself, and not with them –

Still you know

They will fill your heart and mind
When they say there’s a way through this
Those you’ve known
And lost, still walk behind you
All alone
Their song still seems to find you

They call you

As if you knew their longing –
They whistle through the lonely wind, the long blue shadows falling

All alone

But still I hear their yearning
Through the dark, the moon, alone there, burning

The stars too

They tell of spring returning –
And summer with another wind that no one yet has known

They call me –

Through all things –
Night’s falling
But somehow I go on

You watch me

Just watch me –
I’m calling
From longing
When the northern wind blows
The sorrows your heart’s known –
I believe…
Still you known
There’s so much more to find –
Another dream, another love you’ll hold

Still you know

To trust your own true mind
On your way – you are not alone
There are those who still know
Now they’ll walk on my arm through the distant night
And I won’t let them stray from my heart
Through the wind, through the dark, through the winter light
I will read all their dreams to the stars

I'll walk now with them

I’ll call on their names
I’ll see their thoughts are known

Not gone –

Not gone –

They walk with my heart –

And I'll never let them go

I’ll never let them go

I’ll never let them go
You watch me
Just watch me
I’m calling
I’m calling –
And one day all will know

At a time when I have so little faith in anything, it is still my fervent prayer that the end of 2011 finds me in a better place than the end of 2010.  It is also my hope that all of you reading this will find your new year to be full of whatever it is you need most.


  1. 2010 will always be "the year" for you. The year of before and after. Eliza`s year.

    I hope 2011 brings you some peace and light. Remembering your sweet Eliza with you.

  2. Last night, my Facebook status was for you. "May your 2011 be better than your 2010." It's a new decade. We'll be beside you throughout...I love you, friend.

  3. I also hope to find the end of 2011 a much brighter place, I can't imagine a worse year than 2010. Hoping you find peace and happiness in the New Year!
    I also loved Elizabeth McCracken's book.

  4. There's so much here I could comment on, so much that I could say exactly holds true for my year as well.

    I continue to be amazed at your ability to find such eloquence and thoughtfulness in the midst of this grief and terror that is so very very very new...I think it took me at least a month to be able to put words together into simple sentences.

    Thank you for sharing yourself so beautifully on here, Brooke.

    May the end of 2011 find us all in a better place than the beginning of 2011.

    with love,

  5. Like Sarah, I thank you for sharing your blog with us. You're a wonderful writer with amazing insights; I just wish it was about a happier subject. :( I hope 2011 ends much more happily for you.

    P.S. Middlemarch was my favourite English professor's favourite novel. I haven't reread it in years, but perhaps it's time. ; )

  6. Thank you for sharing your experiences so eloquently. I wish, for all of us that have experienced the loss of our children, that we did not know this terrible pain but somehow find comfort knowing others understand.

    I wish you peace and healing in 2011.

  7. I found your blog a few months ago, through another blog - and you have been in my thoughts and prayers - especially during the holidays. You have amazing & real things to say - that mean so much to me.